As the University of Kansas Health System’s executive director of mental and behavioral health, Lauren Lucht has seen the toll the ongoing pandemic has taken on Kansas Citians’ mental health. Stress-filled triggers are everywhere nowadays and Lucht has some insight on our emotional well-being. She says there are two things to keep top of mind: hope and resiliency.
“May is Mental Health Awareness Month and a critical time to focus attention on our emotional wellbeing. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, our lives have changed dramatically, leaving most of us feeling a mixture of depression, anger, anxiety, and fear. Our battle against this virus is not a sprint, but rather a marathon, with the light at the end of the tunnel feeling farther away than we hoped as a nation. As a mental health professional, I am growing increasingly concerned about the emotional toll the battle against COVID-19 will take on each of us. We know isolation, fear of the unknown, financial insecurity, and shelter-in-place orders have serious mental-health impacts. I am worried we will see suicide rates increase across our community.
We see images of emergency rooms on TV looking like COVID-19 war zones. Kansas City is not New York, and our emergency departments are safe places for patients experiencing a mental-health crisis. We have seen an increase in patients presenting to hospitals after a suicide attempt rather than at the onset of suicidal thoughts.Experts believe this may be due to fear of coming to the emergency room during the pandemic. I want our community to know we have psychiatric hospitals across our region ready to support our community. As we deal with the emotional toll of COVID-19, we can do several things to best manage our emotional health. It is important to remember what is in our control during this pandemic. I recommend all of us consider these tools to help us cope during this really difficult time:
- Remember we are not alone; we are all in this together.
- Give yourself a break, take things one day at a time.
- Limit your exposure to pandemic related news to one hour per day at most.
- Talk to your children and teens about the impact the pandemic has had on them.
- Every day reach out to one or two people in your life who are isolated or struggling.
- Be a beacon of hope to others.
- Each day consider several aspects of your life for which you are still grateful.
- Seek teletherapy from providers if you are able.
- If you or a loved one are in crisis, go to the nearest ED, we are here to help.
The stressors and isolation associated with the pandemic, loss of employment, or serving as an essential employee on the frontline can be devastating. We want the community to know, as mental health professionals, we are here, we are ready, and we care about you more than you can imagine. We have flattened the curve on COVID-19, now let’s work together to flatten the curve on suicide and slash the stigma around reaching out for psychiatric care.”